Journey of The Heart: The Johnson Family
PRESS/PROMOTIONAL RELEASE: “JOURNEY OF THE HEART”, THE JOHNSON FAMILY TREE
There are no ancient Australian Aboriginal manuscripts. There are no scrolls, no complete stories told in hieroglyphics, no archives, no genealogical records exist that affirm old Aboriginal traditions, law, events, or genealogy.
Come to think of it there are almost no contemporary Australian Aboriginal manuscripts either. Almost. It is a widely-accepted notion that all historical records, the world over, must rely on reliable sources for information and verification to prove authenticity. At least as reliable as sources can be to prove history ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
But the common tools of the historian: indisputable sources, consistent external and internal verification, manuscripts, scrolls, hieroglyphics, archives, eye-witness journals, genealogy records and so on, hardly count as reliable when Aboriginal historiography is considered.
Why is this, we may ask? The simple answer is that Australian Aboriginal sources are generally considered not as historically reliable as tangible records have been in modern history: their passing on of history is done mostly by word of mouth. They call it ‘Talking Story’. At best, ‘tradition’. At worst, ‘hearsay’.
Olga Collis-McAnespie and her husband Alan, can confirm this. It took them over two years to document the journey of their family to put on record the first ever Aboriginal Family Tree of its kind. It was hard work, with little or no official records to help.
What Olga and Alan discovered in this journey of love, was the gold of memory. With over six hundred entries through seven generations, the uniqueness of the book is embedded in the small print.
Once forbidden words – in the Muruwari language of Olga’s ancestors – for the first time in Aboriginal history, have constructed a cultural bridge worthy to be crossed by their families and many others interested to see how this book was made. And why. A basic glossary enriches the meaning of words used throughout the book Talking one-to-one, writing, phoning and double-checking with family, they have put together a family tree that without a doubt will lead the way for other Aboriginal families to follow. At least that’s what they are hoping for.
The appendix to their publication features a clear and easy guideline of how to build up your family tree when little or no records exist.
“Journey of The Heart; the Johnson Family Tree” is oral history at its best. Self-published at a personal sacrificial cost, Olga and Alan’s initial work has grown from a wish to compile a simple family genealogy, to a strong desire to see their book in as many schools and university libraries as possible. Carefully tracing the complex bloodlines characteristic of Aboriginal anthropology, they have given context to their past and given a bright light for future generations to follow.
Their book contains a wealth of stories from Olga’s past and symbols that explain how the Johnson families are connected with each other. “It was ‘hard-yakka’. And it was gut-wrenching at times.
Looking back to people we knew and others we had only heard about and even total strangers brought not only ngawarl (tears) and laughter but an incredibly deep understanding of how far back and how far forward we go with our extended family,” they said.
“Journey of the Heart; the Johnson Family Tree” stands as a legacy to Australia that will be hard to match. It goes beyond a simple celebration of genealogical ties to become a part of history. An Aboriginal historical manuscript. At last.